This is it, folks! The last installment of my Switzerland trip report.
Switzerland trip report so far: Back from Europe! First Impressions and Takeaways, How We Accidentally Saw the Tour de France Live, Switzerland Part 1: Murren, Schilthorn, Allmendhubel and Paragliding, Wengen, our car-free Swiss Alps home base, Switzerland Part 2: Jungraujoch, Top of Europe, Switzerland Part 3: Mannlichen Hike, Interlaken and Schynige Platte, Switzerland Part 4: Exploring Montreux during the Jazz Festival
The Chocolate Train
My main incentive to visit Montreux was to go on the Chocolate Train tour. My girl and I both love chocolate! This all-day ticketed tour uses a unique Belle Époque train on a scenic route to the town of Gruyeres to see the cheese factory and castle, followed by a tour of the Cailler chocolate factory.
I purchased tickets at the Montreux train station the day before. With our Swiss Travel passes, the cost was $120 for the two of us ($70 for me, $50 for my daughter).
We were so excited to board this special train!
The vintage train cars had fancy seats.
We enjoyed pan du chocolate and drinks as we viewed the gorgeous scenery.
After an hour or so, we departed the train for a quick bus transfer to the Gruyeres.
Our first stop was the Gruyeres cheese factory.
The Gruyeres cheese factory tour was a self-guided audio tour available in multiple languages. Upon entering, we received some cheese samples that had been aged 6 months, 9 months and 12 months. It was interesting to taste the difference.
So. Much. Cheese.
After the factory, a bus brought us up a steep hill to visit the medieval Gruyeres castle and village.
This tiny village was so picturesque and had several restaurants leading up to the castle. Of course, we had fondue.
After lunch, we toured the castle.
I loved exploring all of the rooms on different levels.
The gardens of the castle were lovely. We could hear the cow bells from the nearby fields.
After exploring Gruyeres for a few hours, the tour bus drove us to the nearby town of Broc to see the Cailler chocolate factory.
Cailler Chocolate Factory
I was so looking forward to the chocolate factory tour, but surprisingly it ended up being my least favorite part of the entire Chocolate Train tour. What?!?!
Callier Chocolate Factory
The chocolate factory tour just wasn’t what I had expected. The website says it’s a “multi-sensorial experience,” and I can’t argue with that. Our tour group split into smaller groups of 10 people, and we walked through a series of rooms that had timed presentations. I felt like I was walking through a ride at EPCOT center, but with scary animatronics. The tour was a reenactment of Aztec battles and transatlantic boat journeys to explain the history of chocolate. There were a few younger kids in my group, and they were scared. The tour was honestly really bizarre and didn’t showcase hardly any actual chocolate production.
At the end, we entered a chocolate tasting room where we could eat unlimited amounts of chocolate, as long as we ate them in that room (i.e. we couldn’t grab chocolate to-go). It was fun to taste a variety of flavors and some interesting combinations. We couldn’t stomach as much chocolate as I thought we could.
The tasting room
Overall Thoughts on the Chocolate Train tour: You don’t have to purchase tickets to the Chocolate Train tour in order to see Gruyeres and Cailler. You can take a regular train to Gruyeres and pay admission to the cheese factory, explore the old town on your own and catch a bus to Cailler. However, we LOVED the special train ride and for us, the price of the tour was worth it.
Last year, I watched travel host Samantha Brown snuggle with St. Bernard puppies at Barryland during her show on Switzerland, and I knew I had to visit on this trip. Getting to Barryland from Montreux was easy and cheap. It was just a few train stops away, and the museum was free with our Swiss Travel Passes.
The museum has two floors, and all of the displays are in French only. I knew this ahead of time after reading reviews on Trip Advisor. I’m sure the history of St. Bernard dogs in Switzerland is fascinating, but honestly we were mostly there for the live dogs. We did have fun with some green screen photos inside the museum:
In the Spring, you can pay extra to go on a walk with the dogs close to the museum. In the summer, you can pay to hike up St. Bernard’s Pass with the dogs. Since we did not have the proper hiking boots to hike up the pass (and maybe not the stamina?), we just admired the dogs at the museum.
The dogs are located both inside and outside, and there are no specific dog shows. You can observe the dogs and watch them get groomed. Trainers are moving the dogs to and fro, and that was our opportunity to pet them.
These dogs are huge. Look at the size of this dog’s head!
Barryland has a large gift shop and a restaurant. Somehow my daughter convinced me she needed three different plush St. Bernards.
If you love dogs, go to Barryland. If you’re not that into dogs, I would skip it.
My family had a blast in Switzerland. I hope this trip report gives you a good idea of the fantastic scenery and unique experiences in the country. I really hope to return to Switzerland! It’s my new favorite country to visit (sorry, New Zealand!)
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.